‘Do the right thing, no matter the market’

Over the past two years, the logistics industry has gone through a long, transformative journey that has resulted in both positive and negative changes. As 2022 comes to a close, many believe the U.S. is in a recession, with a possible global recession not far behind. Meanwhile, inflation has reached heights not seen in four decades.

“There are a lot of factors happening in our market that are working against each other,” said Peter Rentschler, CEO of Metafora. “There are rising fuel and energy costs, which are further impacted by the Russia-Ukraine war. Broader inflation means the cost-to-serve for capacity providers is higher than it was a year ago.”

The industry’s greatest challenges in today’s market are talent acquisition and retention, according to Rentschler. The key to success here is locating, hiring and retaining the right people with the right skills, at a price point that your business can afford. 

“You can break this challenge down into components that our industry needs to be proactively working to improve,” he added. “Things like culture, training, development and compensation plans that align employee needs and expectations with the performance and goals of the business.”

Another great challenge is where and how to invest in technology. Everyone knows that tech is important, but the challenge is knowing what the right tech is for your business goals, then following through with the proper rollout and implementation to foster healthy adoption of that tech, he added.

After the past couple of years, many companies have invested heavily in new technology without proper research, assessment, rollout organization and implementation — they bought more than they needed and efficiency suffered. For the past two to five years, people said “yes” way too much and integrated inefficiently, said Rentschler.

Both Rentschler and Ryan Schreiber, Metafora’s VP of Industry & Growth, believe that people and tech are the core of any business, and intelligently investing in them are key to business growth. Businesses should not let the scare of a recession hold them back. They should use market fluctuations to their advantage to grow market share — investing in technology that makes sense and empowering their employees, no matter the market.

The current priority for vetting technology is ensuring it is complementary to a company’s goals and processes. Understanding the strengths of particular tools, and how a company’s individual use case fits one over the other, is increasingly difficult. The scope and varied forms of technology can be overwhelming.

Rentschler’s recommendation: Start with a tech assessment. Don’t be afraid to bring in outside help. Part of why many companies have failed with tech in the past is because of internal bias. An unbiased third party can come in and ask the right questions, which are often the tough questions, he said.

“As for the excuse that ‘it’s hard to find and retain quality talent,’ this implies that businesses are not taking into consideration their part in this issue,” Rentschler said. “Even in a competitive talent market, there are so many factors that are within a company’s control — culture, employee experience, compensation, benefits, values, training, etc. What are you doing to actively make your company a better place to work?”

Companies are putting themselves at a serious disadvantage when they stop thoughtfully investing. They should be actively working to improve their business, no matter the market, he added. “The winning companies have proven this to be true. They made smart, intentional investments while everyone else was cutting costs and reducing spend.”

Investing in people is another important asset. With a solid training program, companies can enable their business to hire people who are aligned with their values and are true culture fits. Even if they don’t have all of the skills initially, they can upskill them efficiently with a good training program. Many will argue that there are challenges around how to successfully train without burdening higher management and experienced employees. The task is to decrease dependency on fellow team members for training and actively invest in well-rounded training that can bring even the most inexperienced team members to the highest level of success.

According to Rentschler, business is much easier to run when you have people with a shared set of ideals and values — hire, review, promote, recognize and celebrate based on company values. “Our values support our greater shared mission to help,” he added.

Training is a powerful investment with a variety of returns. Transportation and logistics companies are shifting from traditional hardware toward software and apps, or software as a service (SaaS). Rentschler believes training needs to see a similar transformation — what Metafora calls “training as a service” (TaaS).

Metafora, previously known as CarrierDirect, is primarily a services firm offering strategy and management consulting services that help businesses with things like organizational design, capacity strategy, compensation strategies, people-focused initiatives and the like. It also specializes in technology strategy, frameworks for buy-build decisions, as well as software procurement and selection, Schreiber said. “We also do proprietary software development, building software for some of the biggest names in the space.”

Metafora positions itself as the industry leader by combining industry expertise with delivery excellence. 

“We’re the most knowledgeable in the space, not just because of the breadth and depth of our relationships, but also because our subject matter experts have faced many of the decisions sitting in the same seat that our customers have. We intuitively understand the problems,” Schreiber said. “We’re very knowledgeable about the best ways to solve the problems, bringing the frameworks and methodologies from the consulting experts to deliver world-class solutions.”

“Working with Metafora gives businesses the benefit of an unbiased outside point-of-view coming in and challenging the status quo,” Rentschler added.

According to Schreiber, some of Metafora’s products include SOCKET, an integrations-as-a-service offering powered by a freight-specific integration platform to tie together systems within and outside the four walls of a business, and Sync Logistics Training, a training platform to take users through everything from new hire training to personal and professional development for a learning journey their whole time with a business.

“If you are a leader and you think your business could grow faster than it currently is, you are probably right, and you probably need an outside eye. Additionally, many business leaders feel that they are doing ‘okay’. As a result, their hesitancy to change is rooted in the notion that change is not necessary, or that improvement is incremental at best. On the contrary, we need change, and improvement can be large-scale and meaningful,” said Schreiber.

Both Rentschler and Schreiber believe in making the proper investments for your company — and that this starts with people and technology. Having the right people sets the trajectory for success. Having the right tech helps your business, your goals and your people. If you’re not investing smartly in people and tech, you’re asking to be left behind. 

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Editor: Britni Chisenall